The most powerful man in the universe was also part of the greatest toyline in the universe. MotU’s giant, wildly varied assortment of heroes and villains set it apart from its ‘80s counterparts — admittedly, some more so than others. So here are all 60 original action figures, scientifically ranked by awesomeness.
Sorry, He-Man, but if there’s one figure in the toyline’s first wave that made it an instant hit, it was Skeletor. A heavily muscled wizard, wielding a staff with a ram’s skull on it, and also his own head was a skull? So awesome.
If Skeletor got kids interested, Trap-Jaw made them fans. He was a perfect encapsulation of Masters of the Universe’s “everything except the kitchen sink” concept. Is he a monster? A cyborg? A pirate? A dude with multiple arms attachments and a steel jaw? A guy who had a little ring on his helmet so he could rappel down string-lines? He was all of those things and more.
Compared to his wildly varied friends and foes, He-Man was almost staid in comparison. But as the steroid ridden, overly tanned barbarian who fought Skeletor and his minions, he had his own appeal. He was the right barbarian for the right time — at no point in history will kids ever again be interested in a mostly naked hero named “He-Man.”
4 and 5) Moss Man and Stinkor
If you remember anything about Masters of the Universe, chances are it involves one or both of these figures, who had the special action feature of smelling like Pine-sol and patchouli, respectively. I can’t overstate how mindblowing this was for kids in the mid-‘80s — we didn’t even know this was possible. And the best part is at this very moment, more than half of the 30-year-old figures still smell.
6) Kobra Khan
Pretty much every MotU figure had an action figure, but only one figure actually fired something — Kobra Khan, who sprayed water when his head was pressed down. Not only was he an awesome snake-man — an idea so popular Mattel made several more of them — his spraying feature resulted in a perfect beam of water that had a truly impressive range. Few MotU figures offered more fun than Kobra Khan.
Another fantastic example of the toyline’s insanely expansive esthetic. So Man-E-Faces is a man… and a monster… and a robot. All thanks to a knob on the top of his head that allowed him to rotate actual faces. It was like three incredible similar action figures in one, and that didn’t sound nearly as unimpressive then as it does now!
8 and 9) Fisto and Jitsu
These two guys has the Masters of the Universe figures’ traditional action punch, but augmented with giant “metal” hands, which were completely awesome. Yes, Jitsu seems kind of racist, and “Fisto” is a name so ridiculous George Lucas eventually used it, but the idea of two dudes so devoted to punching and karate-chopping things that they welding giant appendages to their hands was very compelling.
While Teela’s character on the show was perfectly fine, she wasn’t as mysteriously awesome as Teela’s figure, which came with a truly badass snake-themed armor/headdress. A heroine… that wore a serpent motif? Could some snakes be good and not evil? No other toyline was as progressive when it came to re-evaluating traditional evil iconography in Western culture.
11) Horde Trooper
The Horde Trooper figure had one of the best action features in the line — when you pressed the button on his chest, his chest and head “exploded.” Now, he was almost certainly supposed to be a robot, but the cartoon rarely acknowledged, allowing children to imagine He-Man finally had the opportunity to murder one of his foes.
An odd figure with a great action feature. He had a wheel on his chest; insert a rip-cord and pull as fast as you can, and Dragstor would race across (smooth) floors at what seemed like several hundred miles-per-hour. Plus, when the ripcord was pulled, the spinning wheel could be used to inflict pain on little brothers, which was no small benefit.
This spider-man, if you will, spun no webs of his own, but had a backpack with a line and grappling hook on it that he could “climb” when the string was pulled. There was a time in the ‘80s when every kid wanted a grappling hook more than anything else in the world, and Webstor arrived right in that sweet spot.
Scareglow’s action feature was having a paint-job that glowed in the dark, which was not that unusual. However, he was technically a skeleton wearing a cape, so that was pretty awesome. Plus, he was described as “Evil Ghost of Skeletor”, which blew our young minds. Was Sacreglow another one of Skeletor’s minions, or did… did Skeletor die?!
An incredibly simple action feature became on of the lines most beloved toys, and helped kids see the potential of Masters of the Universe. This was a dude who devoted his entire life to knocking down things with his head. The destruction factor alone made him a knock-out (pun obviously intended).
Suction cups were also pretty cool back in the mid-‘80s. It was a simpler time.
Like Trap-Jaw, He-Man’s right-hand man was another mix of fantasy and scifi. He was armored a bit like a gladiator, but the armor had al sorts of tech-looking details on it. What for? No idea. All I know that giving the barbaric-looking He-Man and scifi-esque friend was one of the things that made Masters of the Universe seem like it could include anything.
Faker was a robot built to be impersonate He-Man. You may notice a flaw here, in that Faker is light blue, which seems like a detail that would be hard to miss. Even though we didn’t understand how this was possible — and knew were technically just buying another He-Man figure in a wholly inappropriate color — we all bought Faker anyways, because the idea of an evil blue He-Man running around was just too awesome to ignore. Plus, he had a sticker hidden on his chest that showed his robot workings, including a tape. A tape!
19 and 20) Modulok and Multi-Bot
This monster and robot, respectively, came with several pieces so you could create your own versions of these villains with as many arms and legs as you wanted. This was a pretty cool feature, especially when you combined them. Of course, every final version looked like of ridiculous, but still, it seemed like the potential was there.
This robot had a clear chest that had gear visible inside, which spun as Roboto moved. This absolutely blew kids’ minds back then, and it’s still pretty cool-looking, even now.
His torso spun and his arms were loose, so he could turn into sort of a whirling dervish of punches, an immensely useful power when battling Skeletor’s forces.
This Horde warrior had a clear chest plate which “blood” could be seen to squish around. It was pleasantly disgusting.
He was a ninja. ‘Nuff said.
Before G.I. Joe’s Baroness, Evil-Lyn was teaching young boys the allure of bad girls. The fact that her sorceress was one of Skeletor’s only competent minions helped out considerably — although I think boys would have been even more interested if her figure had showed an actual skin-tone instead of a sickly yellow.
I’m not sure I can properly explain why this figure, which had a spinning headpiece that allowed him to have one of three cartoonish evil eyes, was so, so awesome. Maybe it was because we were told each eye had a special power. Maybe it was because of his overall design, which was great. Maybe because we could simulate him getting angrier and angrier through his eyes. I don’t know. I just know Tri-Klops was awesome.
27) Tung Lashor
The coolest-looking of the Snake Men, he had a long tongue (or, “tung”) that could extend from his mouth to… do whatever, really. In hindsight, it’s super-weird, but it seemed cool at the time.
28) The Sorceress
Back in the ‘80s, when it was probably marginally true that most boys didn’t want action figures of girls, they still all wanted the Sorceress. She was the guardian of Castle Grayskull! She was an important part of the Masters universe! Also her falcon-motif was pretty awesome.
The idea of an MotU gladiator was great in concept, but not so great in execution. He wasn’t bad — I mean, he was covered in spike and had a trident shooting out of his arm — but he could have been so much more.
30) Beast Man
Skeletor’s loyal minion didn’t have much going on, but as one of the earliest figures, his fantastic color scheme and knowledge that he was a beast-man that controlled beasts made his iconic despite his lack of an action feature.
As Skeletor’s former boss and actual conqueror of She-Ra’s planet of Etheria, the character of Hordak was pretty great in concept, but the figure was a bit ho-hum. He wasn’t as cool-looking as Skeletor — more monstrous than demonic — although he did have his own sort of grandeur. Still, most of his appeal came from the idea that even Skeletor was terrified of him.
32) Rio Blast
Honesty, once Mattel added a cowboy figure, kids realized the Masters of the Universe line was probably nearing its end. But despite his completely useless sheriff’s badge, Rio Blast did have several hidden weapons, including ones inside his chest and his thighs, so that certainly counted for something.
33) Snake Face
What’s almost as cool as having several laser guns hidden throughout your entire body? Having snakes hidden in your face, which would burst out through your eyes and mouth. Sure, they couldn’t do much once they were out, because they were pretty tiny, but they certainly were memorable.
As a child who was convinced the last thing I would hear before I died was a rattlesnake’s rattle, I can tell you this Snake Man’s action feature was more intimidating than you might suspect.
This Horde villain had giant eyes that could extend from his head. He was a goofball on the show, but he was wonderfully weird-looking as a figure, and the eyes were great for shooting imaginary rays at He-Man or moments of shock.
Honestly, I have no idea how Buzz-Off manages to be so damn charming when he looks so completely ridiculous. Is it the smile? The fact that we all assumed he could sting his foes to a horrible, painful death if he wanted to? Maybe a bit of both.
37) King Hiss
The king of the Snake Men was also great in concept, sad in execution. His action feature was that his torso split apart to reveal a smaller torso made of snakes. This was not only spectacularly unintimidating, but also pretty groovy. Also, why did these three regular snakes get to boss around all the much bigger Snake Men? This never made sense to me.
Infamously — well, infamously if you’re a dude who still spends 30 minutes of most days thinking about He-Man — the Mer-Man action figure looked nothing like the figure on the toy packaging, or in the He-Man cartoon. But he was still an evil ocean warlord. We were all very conflicted about Mer-Man.
No action feature to speak of, but the enigmatic Zodac had his own charm because no one knew what his deal was. Was he an alien? Another barbarian? A good guy? A bad guy? A neutral guy? Why was his chest so damn hairy? We had conflicting reports from the toy packaging, the cartoon and the mini-comics, and thus his mystery has endured.
The idea of a lobster-man with a giant claw for a hand sounds potentially pretty cool in theory, but since Mattel gave this villain Caucasian-flesh colored limbs and torso, but a bright, lobster-red head and claw, he looked more like a discarded Red Lobster mascot idea than anything else.
He was Hordak’s version of Beast Man, but had actual hair on his figure. This was not as exciting to boys as Mattel had hoped. Plus, one trip to the Slime Pit and he was ruined forever.
42) Two Bad
Very memorable, and he had a great look, but unfortunately he was designed so that his action feature ended up being to punch himself repeatedly in his two faces.
43) King Randor
This was an action figure of He-Man’s dad. He was a king, but he spent most of the time on the cartoon being disappointed in his son, and if kids wanted that they could get it from their real fathers.
He had an extendable neck, which is exactly as exciting as it sounds. Kids bought him mainly because he was one of the first MotU figures available (and the one most likely to be left behind in toy stores after all the others were sold).
A Masters of the Universe movie character who had a cool design, but 1) only showed up in the movie, which was pretty terrible, and whose claim to fame was being a dude with a sword. I’m not sure if yu’ve noticed, but that won’t get you very far in MotU.
46) Snout Spout
Ol’ Spout had the same water-spraying action feature as Kobra Khan, but looked infinitely worse with his giant, goofy, robot elephant head. Also, he was technically He-Man’s firefighter and even as kids we could tell Mattel was running out of ideas.
The lamest of the Snake Men, Sssqueeze had ridiculous long arms that could wrap around his opponents, but when he wasn’t incapacitating his foes, they looked pretty goddamn stupid lying on the ground. Stupider than Sauron, even.
One of the first MotU figures, Stratos had no action features to speak of but looked kind of like a flying monkey person, so he had that going for him.MotU figures, Stratos had no action features to speak of but looked kind of like a flying monkey person, so he had that going for him. Just not much else.
Unlike Mekanek, who could only extend his neck, Extendar could extend his neck, arms, legs and torso. This technically made him significantly more useful than his predecessor, but he looked dumb and by the time he showed up we’d all gotten used to Mekanek and felt like Extendar was ripping him off.
He had a rubber tail piece which was somehow significantly less cool than it sounds. Also, his face made him look especially imbecilic, which for MotU was saying something.
51) Prince Adam
This figure was only good for imagining his transformation into He-Man, which admittedly happened a lot. Still, in essence, his action figure was basically allowing you to pull out a more interesting character, so he really wasn’t that fun.
52) Clamp Champ
He had a clamp.
In the cartoon, Orko was far less useful than a dude with a clamp, and the toy’s action feature was that he ran around in circles, panicking like his hat was on fire. Still, at least he was a major TV show character.
Another MotU movie figure of an evil reptile warrior who was less interesting than all of the actual Snake Men.
Blast-Attak’s action features was that he split in two, down the middle, giving him two bodies, neither of which could stand or conceivable be of any use in the fight against He-Man at all.
56 and 57) Stonedar and Rokkon
These dudes transformed into rocks. Shockingly, figures that transformed into rocks were not as popular as figures that transformed into cars, jets, guns, boomboxes, etc.
This character from the He-Man movie was like Orko but uglier and without the benefit of being on the cartoon. At least we were used to Orko.
59 and 60) Rotor and Twistoid
Well before Beyblade did it in a much more sensible way, Mattel tried to bring make tops cools with these two guys. The had the spinny bits at the bottom, and morbidly obese torsos and heads, but somehow regular arms. Imagine MODOK as a top with less fashion-sense, and you get the idea.
All photos from the ultimate Masters of the Universe resource, He-Man.org.
Contact the author at firstname.lastname@example.org.